What Livebloggging The Sundance Premiere of U2 3D—Which Is, Um, U2’s 3D Concert Film—Would Have Looked Like, Had It Been Possible To Liveblog It
Posted by: Jon Fine on January 21, 2008
What follows is a reconstruction of the US premiere, at Sundance on January 19, of the aforementioned movie. For obvious technical reasons, like the fact it was ten degrees, tops, in Park City, Utah, actual liveblogging was impossible. (Also I think it would be hard to work on my laptop with my 3D glasses on. And everyone seated near me would want to murder me if I did.) Based primarily on notes scribbled in the dark with 3D glasses on; as such, all times and the order in which events took place should be considered approximate.
9:05 PM: Ten degrees outside, tops. Arrive at theater. There is already a long line of people waiting to get in. Not so bad, except the line is outside, where it’s ten degrees, tops. Rock concert-like atmosphere, in that as I walk from the parking lot to get on line approximately 23 people ask if I am selling a ticket or want to buy one.
9:12 PM: Somewhere around the front of the line, which is around the corner and a hundred yards from where I am standing, the crowd starts squealing, and word spreads that U2 has entered the building.
9:17 PM: Someone says that Al Gore just walked by.
9:19 PM: I mentioned previously that it’s ten degrees, tops, outside, right?
9:26 PM: The guy in front of me sells his spare ticket for $200. The buyer is ecstatic; consensus is that the price is a bargain, and another person nearby says he heard of a ticket going for $800. Eight. Hundred. Dollars. Doesn't everyone know that this is a movie, not a concert?
9:35 PM: Dawning realization that the 9:45 time printed on my ticket is a guideline, at best.
9:56 PM: Whoa, we’re moving. The carefully maintained line, of course, becomes a moshpit. Teens and college kids are hopping over concrete barriers, etc. I’m like: hasn’t anyone told them the aggregate age of the four guys in U2 is around 200?
10:05 PM: Sitting in balcony clutching my 3D glasses, about which we’ve been repeatedly warned we have to return if we want to leave the building.
10:07PM: U2 take their seats. More squealing, shouting, flashbulbs, etc. Bono looks up at the crowd in the balcony and makes a big show of removing his specs, putting on his 3D glasses, and doing a totally yeah, baby kind of face. Crowd goes nuts. I roll my eyes.
10:10 PM: Following brief remarks by festival director Geoffrey Gilmour (who practically threatens to hit you if you don’t return your glasses) and U23D director Catherine Owens, U2 are called to the stage. They take it reluctantly, or so it looks to me, but Bono warms to the audience immediately. Bono: “There’s a lot of love and Irish whiskey in the air.” The band put on 3D specs and pose onstage. Flashbulbs, etc. Crowd goes nuts.
10:12 PM: Lights out; 3D glasses on. That 10-9-8-7 countdown graphic we’ve seen for hundreds of years shows up onscreen—but it “appears” to burn and melt around 7 and suddenly a silver-toned 6 floats up—and off the screen, followed by 5-4-3-2-1. It’s beautiful and kind of cosmic. Crowd goes nuts.
10:13 PM: The crowd is so excited they are cheering for the Best Buy logo . . .
10:14 PM: . . . and the National Geographic logo.
10:18 PM: A few minutes into the movie. There’s a shot of Larry Mullen’s drum kit, and I actually think, ‘god, what a beautiful drum kit.’
10:20 PM: These glasses are amazing. I’m in the balcony, at least 50 yards from the screen—and it still looks like I can reach up and touch every visual. Without even stretching or trying very hard.
10:25 PM: The 3D effects are not jarring, and the specs don’t hurt your eyes. (Before a panel I moderate on Sunday on 3D filmmaking, a longtime 3D proponent said how “comfortable” the 3D in U23D is, and I suddenly know exactly what he means.)
But there is a fairly consistent trick the filmmakers go for, wherein the background is "real" and dimensional but someone—Bono, the Edge, someone in the crowd—is floating in a kind of mid-space somewhere between you and the screen. This happens a lot through the movie, it turns out . . . . by now Bono, of course, has already reached “out” of the screen.
10:32: Briefly take off specs to see what it looks like without them. The movie looks slightly out of focus—no surprise, as the whole deal requires two images for your two eyes to track. (If I understand this technology correctly.)
10:40 PM: The sound in here is spectacular. Adam Clayton’s bass, in particular, is rich enough to feed a family of four. I find out later the producers trucked in their own sound rig from L.A., after having been disappointed in the sound in previous festival engagements.
10:53 PM: This film was shot in 2006, on the South America leg of U2’s Vertigo tour, during which the band was playing soccer stadium-sized venues. As I said, it sounds massive. But then U2 was always writing for arenas—all that echo, etc. I always liked bands to sound more dense, more claustrophobic. This is one reason why I am not a huge U2 fan.
10:58 PM: Camera swoops over the effects rig The Edge has onstage. I think, ‘god, what a beautiful effects rig.’
11:01 PM: Is it me or does The Edge sing back-up a lot more than he used to?
11:12 PM: The intimacy of the shots is astounding. There are the inevitable fans waving cell phones in the air, and it’s like you can almost see what time it says on their phones.
11:18 PM: In “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (which I would be happy never to hear again), during the line “wipe your tears away,” Bono reaches out of the screen, and his hand comes so close it’s like you can smell whatever’s underneath his fingernails.
11:29 PM: God, what a beautiful mike stand. Really. It’s gorgeous.
11:40 PM: The crowd shots are the best part of the movie. There’s one of the tens of thousands of fans on the entire floor of a stadium jumping up and down during the beginning of “Where The Streets Have No Name,” and with the glasses on it’s like you’re watching swells on the ocean coming in from the horizon. Plus, everyone in the crowd is very good-looking, and, at least in my memory, they were all wearing white t-shirts or tank tops.
11:48 PM: People in the balcony near me start cheering. Meanwhile, the screen is showing people in the crowd cheering. I can’t tell where one crowd ends and the other begins. This is very cool.
11:52 Ends. Crowd goes nuts. Lights come on. Cheering continues. When it ends, someone downstairs screams out “legendary!”
11:53 PM: The woman next to me gets up to go. I ask her what she thinks and she says, more or less “it’s an interesting medium, but why spend it on four middle-aged white guys?”
I high-five her.
11:56 PM: Q&A with Catherine Owens and the band.
11:58 PM: Adam Clayton thanks Owens “for putting the bass player in the film,” and with that remark he becomes my most favorite member of the band.
11:59 PM: Most of the questions are along the lines of “do you know how much we love you?” Not edifying.
12:01 AM: A fan asks Bono if U2 would consider making films that mate their music with “rich narratives, like “Yellow Submarine” did with The Beatles.
Bono: “[Expletive] Off!” (Loudly.)
12:02 AM After the laughter dies down, Bono, in mock high-dudgeon, takes the fan to task for finding a “rich narrative” in Yellow Submarine. Makes fun of “Octopus Garden” as well.
12:03 AM: Mentally award Bono ten points.
12:08 AM. Dash for the door, so as to be able to beat the crowd. Return glasses, so as to be able to leave the building.
12:09 AM: Leave building. There’s a huge line for the next show. It’s nine degrees outside, tops.